Lose (your) face to learn a language

Losing faceOne of my Chinese teacher’s favourite things to tell me is that you have to ‘lose your face’ if you want to progress with any kind language learning.  You need to try to express yourself, even if you aren’t 100% sure, and even if there is a chance that someone will correct you (and/or have a pretty good laugh at your expense).

Face is a very important concept in China, more so than in most places in the world.  There are a lot of ways that people can lose it, and a lot of things are done in order to maintain it.  Things which you and I might not find embarrassing could be mortifying for a Chinese person, but yet I find that most Chinese people I meet are willing to try to speak English with me.  I have a great deal of respect for them in this, because I am one of those people who needs to be 100% sure.  It has taken me a long time to just get out there and try to use what I know.

It goes without saying that we will improve more the more we try to speak.  It’s just that sometimes it’s difficult to do so.  I’m not saying that we should aim to embarrass ourselves every time we speak in a foreign language, but we need to try things out, despite any potential embarrassing consequences.

One way to do this is to consider the alternatives – is it worse to try to say a sentence or to have to try to write it down?  Is it more embarrassing to mispronounce a word, or to have to mime entire sentences?  Or you can make it clear that you know your weaknesses by using comical aids such as the iLingual app that I talked about last time.

Do you have a trick to help you speak more often?

Image: Melle_Oh.